Your location: Rideau Canal Home Page > Boating Information > American Boaters

Some Information for American Boaters
(information from Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2015)

For the most up to date information see:

Operator Competency Requirements

The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations require that all operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor have proof of competency and proof of age on board at all times.

The Regulations apply to non-residents:
  • If they operate their pleasure craft in Canadian waters for more than 45 consecutive days or,
  • If they operate a pleasure craft that is licensed or registered in Canada (including rented or chartered boats).
  • The Regulations do not apply to non-residents who operate their pleasure craft in Canadian waters for less than 45 consecutive days. Please note that a proof of residence will be required on board at all times.

Acceptable Proof of Competency for Non-Residents
For non-residents, proof of competency can take one of three forms:
  • A Canadian-issued pleasure craft operator card.
  • A completed boat rental safety check-list (for power-driven rental boats).
  • An operator card or equivalent that meets the requirements of their state or country.

Age - Horsepower Restrictions

The Age - Horsepower Restrictions prohibit operators under the age of 16 from operating recreational vessels above specified horsepower limits:
  • Children under the age of 12 and not directly supervised by someone 16 years of age or older can operate a recreational vessel with no more than 10 hp (7.5 KW).
  • Youth between 12 years of age and under 16 years of age and not directly supervised by someone 16 years of age or older can operate a recreational vessel with no more than 40 hp (30 KW).
  • Only persons 16 years of age or older can operate a personal watercraft (PWC) regardless of supervision.

Safety Equipment Requirements

Foreign pleasure craft (pleasure craft that are licensed or registered in a country other than Canada) need to comply with equipment requirements of the country in which the vessel is usually kept.

If you are not a resident of Canada and are using a pleasure craft licensed or registered in Canada, all of the required safety equipment must meet Canadian safety requirements. However, you may opt to bring your own PFD for your own personal use.

Alcohol and Boating

Driving Under the Influence

Boating while impaired is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Operators with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood are liable to the following fines:

1st offence : at least $600 fine
2nd offence : at least 14 days of imprisonment
3rd offence : at least 90 days of imprisonment
The maximum sentence may vary depending on provincial statutes.

Consumption of Alcohol In most provinces:

Alcohol may be consumed on board the pleasure craft only if it meets all of the following conditions:

  • The vessel has permanent sleeping facilities
  • The vessel has permanent cooking facilities
  • The vessel has a permanent toilet
  • The vessel is anchored or secured alongside a dock
Check with the OPP for more detailed information.

Shore-Line Speed Restrictions

When boating in Ontario please observe the unposted speed limit of 10km/h (6 mph) within 30 meters (100 ft) from shore. This limit applies on all waters within these provinces except where other limits are posted. These provisions do not apply in rivers less than 100 meters (300 ft) in width, canals and buoyed channels nor in the case of waterskiing, where the tow boat launches and drops off skiers by heading directly away from or into the shore.

Sewage Restrictions

Help Keep Our Waterways Clean

There are restrictions against pumping sewage into all waters with the province of Ontario. Aa pleasure craft fitted with a toilet must also be fitted with a holding tank and if fitted with a piping system that allows the discharge of sewage directly overboard, then this discharge must be visibly disconnected. Sewage may only be discharged at shore pump-out facilities.

Portable Toilets

Portable toilets are illegal on Ontario waters.

The owner of a pleasure craft shall ensure that each toilet and the holding tank(s) is/are installed so that;

  • The toilet and equipment are connected in such a manner that the equipment receives all toilet waste from the toilet.
  • Equipment designed for the storage of human excrement is provided with a deck fitting and such connecting piping as is necessary for the removal of toilet waste by shore-based pumping equipment.
  • No means of removal of toilet waste is provided other than the means mentioned above.
  • All parts of the system for removal of toilet waste are congruent with one another and the boat.
Marine VHF Radio

VHF Radio
Marine VHF radio is the recommended means of issuing a distress alert. If you have a marine VHF radio, keep it tuned to channel 16.

Know where you are at all times and be prepared to describe your location accurately. In case of grave and imminent danger (for example, your boat is taking on water and you are in danger of sinking or capsizing) use channel 16 and repeat "MAYDAY" three times. Then give the name of your vessel and its position, the nature of your problem and the type of assistance needed.


Channel 16 is used for EMERGENCY and CALLING purposes only. If possible, take your conversation to a working frequency once you have called another vessel on channel 16.

Anyone who uses a VHF radio must follow the procedures described in the VHF Radiotelephone Practices and Procedures Regulations. Currently, all VHF radio operators are required to have a Restricted Operator's Certificate (ROC) with maritime qualifications. Canada recognizes the American Certificate.

For more information on the ROC, contact the Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons (CPS) toll-free at: 1-888-277-2628.

Cellular Phones

With a cellular phone, you may contact Rescue Coordination Centers directly. Or, by dialing *16, you will contact the nearest Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Center. Remember that a cellular phone is not a good substitute for a marine radio and it is not an approved means of issuing a distress call. Making a call does not alert other boaters close to you - those other boats could be the ones to help you first if they could hear you. Unlike VHF transmissions, cellular phone signals cannot be followed back to your location by rescuers. Contact your cellular provider to find out if you have access to the *16 service.

Marine Charts

For more information contact your Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) Regional Office: Québec (418) 775-0502
Ontario (905) 336-4851

Entering Canada by Boat (Customs)

Visitors entering Canada by boat should visit the Canada Border Services Agency for more information on Customs procedures.

If you will be entering Canada from the United States using a private pleasure craft, you may be interested in the CANPASS program.

Canada Customs - When you enter Canada by boat you must immediately call customs from a designated reporting station. These designated marinas will have Revenue Canada Customs sign posted. You must report:
  • Vessel number, registration, and name Name,
  • citizenship, date of birth
  • Country of residence of each person on board
Note1: The lockstation at Kingston Mills is a designated reporting station as are several marinas in the Kingston area.

Note2: People who are not Canadian or U.S. citizens must have valid passports or travel documents.

Other Information

Please note that the following is not detailed or official information. Please check with the applicable regulatory agency for the most up to date and detailed information. If you see any errors on this page, please let me know.

Entry into Canada is very simple. Every member of your party should carry proof of citizenship. A passport is ideal, but a birth or baptismal certificate, together with a photo ID, will suffice. Naturalized citizens should carry their naturalization papers and U.S. resident aliens must have an Alien Registration Receipt Card.

You must report to Canadian Customs as soon as you arrive into Canada. Most near-border marinas are designated customs stations. An entry permit will be issued, which must be returned upon your departure from Canada. You can also report to Canada Customs using their toll free line, 1-800-265-5633, available 24 hours a day.

Kingston Mills lockstation is a "Canada Customs Telephone Report Site". This means that U.S. boaters can come directly to the Rideau, and simply report to a Custom's officer by phone at Kingston Mills. Once in a while a customs officer will be physically present at the site.

Limitations - You may bring into Canada a maximum of 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes and 400 grams (14 oz) of tobacco. Alcoholic beverages are limited to 1.14 litres (40 oz) of liquor or wine, or 8.5 litres (300 oz) of beer or ale (equivalent to 24 bottles or cans). Any amount above these limits are subject to federal duty and taxes as well as provincial liquor fees.

Firearms - ALL firearms must be declared before entry into Canada. Basically, only weapons with a legitimate sporting or recreational use are allowed into Canada. In Ontario, even regular hunting rifles and shotguns cannot be transported outside of hunting season. Most other weapons, including all handguns, are prohibited and cannot enter Canada. Penalties for entry of illegal weapons are extremely severe. Leave them at home.

Pets - Dogs and cats are welcome, but must have a certificate signed by a licenced veterinarian that clearly describes the animal and declares that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies within the past 36 months. This certificate is also needed for a dog's return into the U.S., so be sure it doesn't expire while travelling in Canada.

U.S. Customs - Before you leave the U.S., please be sure to pick up an updated listing of items that you are allowed to bring back duty free.

For a listing of Canada Customs regulations have a look at: Canadian Border Services Agency Website

For More Information

For more information on foreign vessel regulations or other boating issues call the Canadian Coast Guard's safe boating information hotline at 1-800-267-6687 (North America only) or visit the Office of Boating Safety website.

Another website with generally up to date information about boaters coming into Canada is Pat's Boating in Canada, Entering Canada by Boat page:

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson